Sunday, January 31, 2010

Neo-Confucian thought in 17th Century Korea

I will try to update this post, but this is some rough sketch on the topic: Neo-Confucian thought in Korea - how it helped and how it restrained the society?

    After Imjin War (1592-1598), resulting in utter destruction of peaceful society, Joseon (name of Korea) turned to Neo-Confucian thought as a guidance in ruined country. Philosophers offered very clear, acceptable model of life and ruling, quickly adapted by everyone, especially men in power.
    Neo-Confucian thought has its roots in Confucianism, but it defies it in many key aspects. Due to its lack of interest in any metaphysical aspects of life, Neo-Confucianists were more aware of everyday life and therefore in conducting it in a proper way. Social behavior was codified, clearly stating what is possible to to in public and what is strictly prohibited. Society was divided to classes without legal possibility of merging between. Of course, this was not the result of Neo-Confucian thought, as if before 16th century there were no such structure in ancient Korea. It was, but it was Neo-Confucianism that led the society and ruling class with King as its head, to a status quo, maintained for over two centuries. It was because of fresh and solid thought of this philosophy that society managed to survive and culture started to bloom.
    In 19th century "the hermit kingdom", as Korea was often called, was forced
by Japan to open. Quickly Korea fell under the influence of japanese expansionism and became part of the Empire. World War II didn't give Korea the freedom people wanted. In contrary, it divided the country, and the results of this maintain up to this day.
    In late 80's South Korea shook off military regime and started to democratize. It wouldn't be possible without Confucian ways of life imprinted in the mind of every Korean. First, they put their efforts for the country, neglecting completely their own desires. Secondly, they managed to do so as a result of strong relations within social group that Neo-Confucianism described. (more to come)...

In ability to see the whole nation as one organism and in the perseverance of Korean people, manifesting in past years it is easy to find current bloom of the country. Despite global crisis.